In the wake of a technological reformation which exhibits qualities of incessancy and eventual permanence, the discipline as well as the process of education has evidently transformed on a significant level.
From simple, plain text to interactive audio-visual lessons, from notebooks to screens, and from chalkboards to projector screens, the methods and mediums through which knowledge is imparted, have taken a leap towards a superlative profundity.
Considering this steady march towards progress, the question that arises now, is that of when. When should education be introduced to a human being? When would be the right time to let your children out towards a world full of knowledge and opportunities?
In our endeavor towards seeking the answer, we at The Knowledge Review have come across The 10 Most Valuable Preschools in Malaysia, that strive to deliver the best value of education to children of an adorably tender age.
As significant as the list could get, Stellar Preschool is one among the many, which has truly exemplified early age education when it comes to the quality of curriculum, infrastructure and professional expertise.
To give a vivid introduction, Stellar Preschool is an independent institution located at Johor Bahru with a structure, style and traditions that emanate from the UK and with a curriculum and methodology that reflect the best in global education research and practice.
However the preschool practices integrated curriculum, and follows strictly with a balanced approach between academics and play. To play and to experiment is an important part of learning at Stellar. It adheres to Benjamin Franklin’s Quote, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
Its mission is to provide a balanced academic experience to ensure a smooth transition into primary education, whilst creating an environment that empowers children to reach their full potentials – cognitive, intellectual, creative, spiritual, moral, social, emotional and physical. In addition, children are educated to acknowledge and respect individual needs of others in a caring environment.
Stellar Preschool maintains a small-class size settings of 1:5 ratio from three to four years old, and a 1:10 ratio from five and six years old. It provides music rooms, reading corners and common areas that carry out large group activities for children of all ages to interact and learn from each other. The school does not emphasize much on playground, instead it brings children back to nature by integrating lessons at its 5-Senses Edible Garden.
Stellar Preschool does what is truly needed by the children, i.e. computer science class is scrapped off because at this early age, it isn’t beneficial to this generation who are born in the era of smart gadgets. Instead of playground, there is notable focus on the edible garden – it is exactly what the children need! Values such as resourcefulness, responsibility towards nature, consistency, patience and empathy are nurtured when one plants anything. With their own produce, most children love eating their own grown vegetables.
With an affinity for the role of nature in cognitive performances, Stellar Preschool works closely with Dr. Lemuel, who is known internationally as ‘The Farming Doctor’ and is the founder of FOLO Farm, to design a 5-Senses Edible Garden for the school.
In order to promote parental involvement, Stellar Preschool organizes sports day, annual concert and at least three excursions annually to encourage parents, especially the working ones to be actively involved. Besides that, the school utilizes current technology and social media platforms such as YouTube and Instagram to educate parents and the community on its latest happenings, trends and future in education as well as educational videos.
As children were not able to fully communicate the happenings in school to their parents, Stellar Preschool set up a YouTube Channel. It provides a means for parents to understand what goes on in the school, the projects and events as well as sharing ideas to other kindergartens for mutual benefits.
Delivering Quality Education
Stellar Preschool has been accredited as an ECO School for the UN Sustainability Goal, and is also accredited as social enterprise from MAGIC at “basic” level.
The school uses International English, Mathematics and Science syllabus as its benchmark. Apart from academic, it also emphasizes on creative play, character building and practical life skills that children are able to learn beyond books.
To fulfill children’s learning needs of physical, social and emotional domains, Stellar Preschool has designed a series of Enrichment Programmes. These provide opportunities for children to discover, reflect, communicate and apply their learnings. For example, The Einstein Project integrates science and engineering into everyday lives. Others include Leadership, I’m An Artist, Little Picasso, English Programme, Group Percussion and Drum Lessons.
Driving towards Prominence
Stellar Preschool’s voyage towards celestial growth is helmed by Jocelyn Loh, Stellar Group’s Chief Operating Officer. She holds a Master’s in Education (Early Childhood Education) from Monash University Australia.
“Figures are not always the core,” Jocelyn expresses. “I was working in Singapore as an external auditor for years and gave up the high-pay salary for the calling to contribute towards my mother-country. If we always strive for figures, we might lose the focus on the foundation of ‘WHY’ we are doing it. That is part of the reason to maintain our small class-size ratio for the benefits of both children and teachers,” she adds.
Expressing her admiration for the author Simon Sinek and quoting him, Jocelyn says, “The companies that we love and admire, tend to have a just cause that underlies what they do.” She asserts that it is pivotal to align the vision and mission with the team members to warrant that the school moves towards the right direction.
“Our team is young, dynamic and vibrant, where we work together for the same end goal in mind. To educate children, teachers are the assets. And none more worthy than a dedicated one,” she adds.
Jocelyn states that the team manages a mentoring system among the teachers, and they ensure that the communication chain does not break down from daily operations. She emphasizes on her belief that in order to strive for excellence, the right goal is necessary and having the right ‘just cause’ of each team member allows them to have a culture of openness.
“I’m blessed to be a part of this great bonding and teamwork that exists within Stellar Preschool that aids its success. We do not penalize on anyone’s fault, but learn from each other regardless of age, race or background experiences,” says Jocelyn.
Additionally, the school also advocates continuous professional development for teachers in the form of leadership conferences and networking through education leaders.
Changing lives one child at a time
At the micro level, Stellar Preschool believes in treating children like adults and with the respect, care and recognition they deserve. It wants and trains the children to think for themselves, reflect and differentiate viewpoints and make sound decisions based on their judgment.
As an example, Jocelyn speaks of a 6 year old boy who’s initial reaction to vegetables were disgust and complete refusal to swallow. Despite that, after much reasoning and support from all the teachers, he finally understood the concept that eating vegetables will help him to grow healthily and when he is healthy, he will be able to protect his younger siblings. The power of reasoning can never be underestimated as well as a child’s ability to think for themselves.
At the macro level, Stellar Preschool organizes community events such as Mid-Autumn Festival, trips to orphanages and special needs that not only raise funds, but provide ample opportunities for children to learn empathy.
Striking a Balance
When it comes to the utilization of technology, screens and other related tools to be specific, Jocelyn is of the opinion that striking a balance with the use of technology in teaching is essential as to not deteriorate students’ attention span.
She states that making use of available technology is good for children to explore its function and application in an artificial intelligence generation. However, the preschool does not encourage children to overindulge at such a young age. Instead, more activity-based approaches and class participation between teacher and students are adopted to produce more meaningful lessons.
At Stellar Preschool, empathy is highly emphasized, as it is the value that can never be replaced by artificial intelligence. It fosters empathy within children through its teaching methodology where children are questioned at the soonest opportunity as they get thinking. The school also exposes them to current worldwide problems and issues, where the foundation is laid and set. They then move on to hands on utilization of technological prototype to better solve the issue.
Stellar Preschool is currently planning for its international school for K-12 Education, with the vision of ‘Raising a generation of stars for a sustainable future’. Its mission is of ‘Preparing the next generation of global citizens by equipping them with lifelong learning skills in this ever-changing world”.
The preschool lays the foundation for its future smart international school where jumping on the bandwagon of renewable energy, it is planning for a green classroom that is completely powered by renewable energy. Likewise, it will be having an interactive smart farm and a smart system in the cafeteria.
The school’s aim is to have improved and comfortable learning spaces and outdoor classrooms that are able to combat the Malaysia heat and notorious mosquitoes. The school aims to upgrade into a green-campus in order minimize wastage and educate the next generation about sustainability.